Fresh, from our exciting night last week, when we crowned Kilchoman's 3 year old Inaugural release the Best In Glass winner, we thought it would be useful to give our palates some room to breathe. Yeah right.
Joel went back to drinking Babycham and Harvey's Bristol Cream, whereas I went a little off-piste. (that's 'Piste'...)
This involved me making copious amounts of a new 'baked apple' whisky cocktail i've been working on for Christmas (details to follow in a seperate post)
Rest assured, we're back on the straight and narrow now and have been wading through some of the recent samples which came in.
One we're particularly interested in was a new release from Highland Park- Earl Magnus. According to Jason Craig at the distillery, 'this is a 15 year old HP, with the addition of some casks from the early 1990's, which should add some greater depth to an high strength expression.'
Historically the Earl or 'Saint' Magnus has been a celebrated figure throughout Orkney tradition, most notably by the stunning cathedral in Kirkwall, which is less than a mile away from the distillery. The Highland Park archive also has in its midst, a bottling from the late 19th Century which depicts an image of Magnus, taken from an ancient stained glass window.
We're big fans of this year's releases HP releases, including the Hjarta and Orcadian vintages, so will this one also be a triumph? More to the point... would this Magnus dare to sit in the Caskstrength Mastermind chair...
"Earl Magnus, your chosen specialised subject is... 'The life and work of the Highland Park distillery'. You have 2 minutes, starting.... NOW":
Highland Park - Earl Magnus bottling - 52.6% - 5976 bottles - 70cl
Nose: Something earthy stirs as the liquid settles in the glass, some definite wood in there, but not sherry wood. A heather note, followed by some dried grass and a little waft of smoke, but only a fleeting one. Left for a while, some quite elegant floral notes develop- rose petals, dried rose petals perhaps?
Palate: Oh, that's working for me. A cracking oily, rich mouthfeel, gives way to some sweet, then menthol flavours. Barley sugar, then orange sherbet, coupled with some malty cereal. It's got Highland Park stamped all over it, but a little bit bolder, with a touch of embossing. With water, it mellows out and you get back the warming hint of floral in the mouth, rather like those fruit jelly sweets, with a hint of citrus. Again, given a little time, some milk chocolate enters the fray, which is nicely tempered with the lingering citrus.
Finish: A slight dustiness and dryness takes over the palate, but the finish is still rich and unmistakably Highland Park.
Overall: A really interesting bottling- the label looks great and the contents are certainly to be commended. At £85, it won't be on everyone's shopping list, but might just creep onto mine, if I can persuade Mrs Caskstrength to abandon her dreams of some tailored leather opera gloves for Christmas...